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[at-awl, -ol, -ohl, uh-tawl, uh-tol, uh-tohl] /ˈæt ɔl, -ɒl, -oʊl, əˈtɔl, əˈtɒl, əˈtoʊl/
a ring-shaped coral reef or a string of closely spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon.
Origin of atoll
1615-25; earlier atollon < French: a word used in early descriptions of the Maldive Island atolls; said to be Divehi (Indo-Aryan language of the Maldives) atoḷu Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for atoll
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Once more he raised the glass to his eye and gazed toward the inlet of the atoll.

    Adrift on the Pacific Edward S. Ellis
  • Sanders knew of it, and said they passed it still closer on their way to the atoll.

    Adrift on the Pacific Edward S. Ellis
  • And search they did, atoll after atoll, until at the end of an hour they were rewarded.

    David and the Phoenix Edward Ormondroyd
  • With this chart a landlubber could have gone straight to the atoll.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • For a trifling sum I could have chartered a schooner and sought the atoll.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • The atoll is known, but uncharted, because it is far outside the routes.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • A vast rumbling crash shook the coral foundations of the atoll.

    A Son Of The Sun Jack London
British Dictionary definitions for atoll


/ˈætɒl; əˈtɒl/
a circular coral reef or string of coral islands surrounding a lagoon
Word Origin
C17: from atollon, native name in the Maldive Islands
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for atoll

1620s, atollon, from Malayam atolu "reef," probably from adal "closing, uniting." Popularized in present form by Darwin's writings.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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atoll in Science
  (āt'ôl', ā'tôl')   

A coral island or series of coral islands forming a ring that nearly or entirely encloses a shallow lagoon. Atolls are surrounded by deep ocean water and range in diameter from about 1 km (0.62 mi) to over 100 km (62 mi). They are especially common in the western and central Pacific Ocean and are believed to form along the fringes of underwater volcanoes. Compare barrier reef, fringing reef.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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atoll in Culture
atoll [(a-tawl, a-tol, ay-tawl, ay-tol)]

A coral island that surrounds a lagoon. (See coral reef.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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